Two old men stand by a graveside, delaying a funeral in the hope that others might turn up. The deceased, 58 year-old Eric Argyle, died with an ‘I love you’ left unspoken. Across town, a stressed cellist has just received 5,307 love letters meant for someone else. Together the pages within make up a memoir, but will they reach their intended recipient? That depends on Eric himself, up in limbo with a decision to make.
Simple storytelling played out under a canopy of lampshades, Dan Herd’s production is all jumble sale chic and twinkling xylophones. It’s the sort of whimsy that goes down well on the festival circuit, but in the cynical badlands of London, this Edinburgh and Dublin Fringe hit from young Irish company 15 Oak feels a little too sentimental. Eric’s tragedy is his timidity and his regrets – so easily averted in hindsight – are a dead cert in the tear duct department.
But what elevates ‘Eric Argyle’ above other shows of this sweetly ramshackle ilk is writer Ross Dungan’s knack for making narrative strands converge without giving the game away. It all adds up to a delicate little mediation on mortality; one that suggests life boils down to dealing with death’s consequences and helping others do likewise. What you leave behind matters, but legacies can be written in hearts as well as the history books. Matt Trueman